Saturday, September 06, 2008

"Firaaq" a movie by Nandita Das

I'm back, thank you, everyone, for the holiday wishes, we had a great time and there are pictures on FB should you wish to view them. But now, on to the Toronto International Film Festival and the brilliant film I saw yesterday titled "FIRAAQ"

Firaaq has been directed by Nandita Das, prominent Indian actor who has appeared in such films as Deepa Mehta's Fire (96) and Earth (98). Firaaq (08) is her feature writing and directing debut.

Here's a small introduction to the movie from the TIFF site

Onscreen, Nandita Das has proven herself the most soulful of actors, capable of combining emotional expressiveness with unshakable integrity. Off screen, she has maintained an ongoing commitment to social justice in India. Das brings these two worlds together in her feature debut, telling the story of one of India's great wounds with both sincerity and passion.

Conflict between Hindus and Muslims continues to flare into violence in India, and is often stoked by political interests. Firaaq begins in 2002 in the state of Gujarat, where three thousand Muslims died in communal riots. In an early scene of almost Shakespearean gravity, two Muslim men dig a mass grave for the victims. From there, the story jumps forward one month, away from the direct physical effects of the conflict to the more amorphous – but increasingly persistent – inner discord.

When Hanif and Muneera return to the modest home they had fled during the violence, they find it ransacked. With their lives shattered not simply by vandalism but by betrayal from their neighbours, Hanif seeks revenge. Elsewhere, middle-class Hindus Sanjay and Arati were untouched by the hostilities, but are met with new moral challenges. Serene older musician Khan Saheb (Naseeruddin Shah) has tried to transcend religious differences, but as a Muslim living in a Hindu neighbourhood, he now finds this stance more complicated. At the same time, Anu and Sameer, an intermarried Hindu-Muslim couple, finally face the tensions they have long suppressed.

Das interweaves these stories over one twenty-four-hour period, as characters of both faiths and from many levels of society grapple with the new, post-violence reality. Through it all, a young boy named Mohsin embarks on an urban odyssey from his refugee camp towards a better future, wherever he might find it.

Firaaq is an Urdu word that means both separation and quest. Like this courageous and essential debut film, the word acknowledges divisions while pointing a way forward to hope.

My thoughts: There were several things I loved about Firaaq. One, neither the Muslims nor the Hindus were made out to be the villains of this sorry affair, rather, the movie seems to place the onus squarely on the shoulders of the police and the state of Gujarat and I, for one, am inclined to agree with that determination. Also, the movie poignantly explores through the character Samir (ably played by Sanjay Suri) what it might feel like to be a Muslim in India. Is it right for one to have to live in fear just because of one's name, one's religion? It also explores how fear eats at you, eats into your relationships, your self-worth and changes the kind of person you were meant to be. No one should have to pay for the sins of another, but as a society isn't that what we're doing when we paint an entire community with the same brush? There can never be peace or justice for as long as we keep doing that. I think this movie forces us to examine our racial prejudices, hopefully it will make us see people as individuals and not tag them based on their names, castes or religion.


Anonymous said...

ohh I wish to see it too!

Nymeth said...

This sounds like such a great movie. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Lotus.

Sanjay said...

Heyyy Lotus!!!! How are you my friend? Welcome back!!!! I am glad you had a great vacation and a chance to catch a film at the TIFF. I wish I could just spend an entire week at the TIFF watching movies. lol!
I know one can always dream no?
Thank you for a most wonderful post and what I think is a great choice for a movie.
I think so far as much as the subject matter seems old, Das's focus on the interpersonal relationships and the effect of these traumatic events (religious riots) on the human spirit, on an individual level and at the level of families and friendships is something that has not been well addressed before.
That makes her effort perhaps novel, and brave as a first time filmmaker and hence to be applauded.
You ask some very relevant questions about what it means to be a religious minority, esp a Muslim. And what you ask transcends nations, for I do wonder what it is like to be Muslim and fly or endure extra scrutiny at places?
It is often easy to think of them as different after you have first demonized them, by making them seem less human.
You are right in that things will not change unless we appeal to the better angels in us and others.
I also tend to agree that the state government at the time (wasn't it the BJP?) and the police at it's command played a role in not stopping the violence.
But there are plenty of villains and innocent victims on both sides.
What did you like about the film in particular? Anything you did not like?
The cast was truly an ensemble with some powerhouse names no?
Also was there a discussion at the end of the film? There usually is at a festival like this.
What was the best question asked of her and the worst (the press can be so clueless at times)?
Sorry :) I just keep blathering.
I surely look forward to watching this movie! Thank you for telling us about it. Have a great weekend!

Alice Teh said...

Happy to have you back, Lotus! Been missing you. :)

Thanks for the introduction to the movie. Will keep a lookout for it if it's screened here in Malaysia. We do have screening for foreign movies. :)

d gypsy! said...

Glad u had a good vacation...

Haven't seen the movie but Nandita Das has some amazing roles to her profile. She doesn't look like an actor when she is acting, she is so real!

Hoping to catch the movie soon..

Happy Reader said...

Hey Lotus! So glad to have you back :) How was your trip? Firaaq sounds very interesting. Would love to watch it.

Happy Reader said...

Hey Lotus! So glad to have you back :) How was your trip? Firaaq sounds very interesting. Would love to watch it.

tanabata said...

Glad you're back and that you had a great time! :)

starry nights said...

Lotus..glad you are back,would love to see this movie.I feel the same way as you do, I wish people would treat each other as individuals."we paint an entire community with the same brush." so true.

Parth said...

Will need to see this. Had heard about the film being made a while back.

Neeku said...

Happy to know you had a good vacation. I think me going to see this movie... it does seem really nice.

sandhya said...

I have never not liked a Nandita Dass movie. Thanks for the heads up on this one. I'll keep my eyes peeled for it here in NY. Welcome back!

Radha said...

Sounds interesting. I read abt the Toronto Film Festival in the mags. A lot of Bollywood stars on the red carpet?

J at said...

Thank you for this wonderful review. I'll keep my eyes open, in case this film makes it to the little art house type theater down the street. :)

david mcmahon said...

Welcome back, Lotus. This sounds like a wonderful theme.

Hope you had a good holiday. I was in Canada while you were away - but I was on the other coast, in the Yukon.

Shot 5000 photos in six days!!

Id it is said...

You're back!
Will definitely watch this one.

Tazeen said...

sounds like a good one.

Rajesh said...

Firaaq is the directorial debut of eminent Indian actress Nandita Das, which deals with the impact of
violence on human psyche and relationships. Firaaq has been selected in the Contemporary World Cinema Premiere slot.
Nandita Das had shown her charisma at TIFF several times, last year her two films witnessed at TIFF – Santosh Sivan’s
“Before the Rains” and Adoor Gopalkrishnan’s “Nallu Penangal” and both were highly acclaimed,
but this year she is excited as her directorial debut will be premiered at TIFF.

i cant wait for this really great movie
i have download its wallpaper and photos below given link just try it once you really like it too.

Anil said...

Really nice article about the movie directed by actress Nandita Das, venturing into direction for the first time!
Would certainly love to watch Firaaq!! When is it releasing in India?
Thanx :-)